The first day of winter is technically Dec. 21, but here on the East Coast things are getting cold and we at Polygon are officially declaring it the unofficial start of winter. As the temperature drops, we’re excited about curling up under a blanket and cracking into the excellent new games this holiday season has to offer.
From reboots and sequels of beloved series to hotly anticipated new releases from video game auteurs, there’s a lot to look forward to. Below, we’re rounding up the best new games of the season as well as the upcoming games we’re looking forward to most. (Hint: This is a great place to start if you’re shopping for the gamer in your life.)
Disco Elysium (Oct. 15)
Disco Elysium is the rare RPG that spends more time on character building than on combat. As Polygon’s Disco Elysium review says, “Disco Elysium feels like playing a tabletop role-playing campaign with a DM who got into the game through 5th edition tabletop podcasts, and who doesn’t mind getting very silly with things. There’s no reliance on established lore and settings, but there is a much heavier focus on role-playing a consistent character through an interesting story.”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Oct. 31)
Third time’s the charm for this spooky Nintendo franchise. While the first two Luigi’s Mansion games were … fine, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a gosh darn delight. “This is our scaredy-cat hero’s best adventure yet,” our review says, “and it’s made even better by just how much he dislikes being on it.”
Planet Zoo (Nov. 5)
For those of us who spent far too many after-school hours hunched over a PC running our own private zoos in Blue Fang’s Zoo Tycoon, Planet Zoo will feel pretty familiar. The building and management sim is perfect for animal lovers who are also micromanagers, since tiny inefficiencies can spiral out of control. While the game isn’t especially great at communicating information, our reviewer “couldn’t help but love Planet Zoo for what it is: a game about trying to make the world a little better, by making sure some animals are well looked after.”
Available on Windows PC
Get it here: Steam
Death Stranding (Nov. 8)
Hideo Kojima’s latest game is just as bonkers as you’d expect from a Hideo Kojima game. There’s overwrought dialogue, hilariously on-the-nose names, and lots of bodily functions. Though the first and last 10 hours are kind of a slog, at it’s best Death Stranding is “a wholly unique open-world adventure with asynchronous cooperative multiplayer that allows me to feel like I’m part of a community, building a world from scratch.”
The Sims 4 Discover University (Nov. 15)
The latest expansion pack for The Sims 4 sends sims off to college — but whether they spend that time studying or partying is up to you. The official trailer shows off plenty of quintessential college experiences, from hitting the books in the library to passing out in a dorm room. We’re excited to head back to school, even if it’s just to get in a few rounds of “juice pong.”
Available on PC and Mac, coming to Xbox One and PS4 on Dec. 17
Get it here: Origin
Pokémon Sword and Shield (Nov. 15)
Game Freak’s latest Pokémon game, “open[s] up the world enough to spark wonder,” according to our review. The new U.K.-inspired Galar region brings new rivals, new evolutions, and of course, new ‘mons. There’s a lot to explore in Sword and Shield, so much so that our reviewer noted, “The surprise in Sword and Shield is that I’m still finding things that surprise me, even after putting in so many hours.”
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Nov. 15)
Respawn Entertainment’s new Star Wars game takes place in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, with a new story and mostly new characters. As an exploration game, it’s a refreshing change of pace from what we expect out of Star Wars games. From our review:
We’ve had so many Star Wars experiences that were first-person shooters, or action games, or role-playing games, and of course all those mobile games. But this is a new idea for how Star Wars games can be structured, and shows how much room there is in this universe to experiment with new ideas of what we want to do in the land of the Jedi and the Empire.
Wattam (Dec. 17)
Katamari Damacy developer Keita Takahashi has been teasing Wattam for years, and we’ll finally be able to play it on Dec. 17. This game looks adorable and weird. The goal is to make friends with the many multicolored, anthropomorphic objects that populate Wattam’s strange world. And yes, that includes happy little pieces of poop.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (Jan. 17)
Goku’s latest adventure is bringing some iconic moments from the Dragon Ball Z anime to the game series. Unlike most of the previous Dragon Ball games, Kakarot looks like it’s going to be a full action RPG, rather than strictly a fighting game.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Feb. 11)
The long-awaited sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest looks just as charming and ethereally beautiful as its predecessor. Developer Moon Studios has been teasing Ori and the Will of the Wisps since E3 2017, and we can’t wait to dive back into this fantasy world.
Available on Xbox One and Windows PC
Gods and Monsters (Feb. 25)
Ubisoft offered a first look at its new mythology-themed game during its 2019 E3 presentation. Developed by the creators of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, it makes use of the Assassin’s Creed engine but with much more family-friendly combat. It looks like Breath of the Wild via Ancient Greece, which is certainly an intriguing proposition.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake (March 3)
After five years of waiting, we’re finally getting the Final Fantasy 7 remake that was promised back in 2015. Based on the latest gameplay trailer, the new renders look gorgeous, and fans of the original game will be happy to know that a “classic mode” will bring back the turn-based action they’re used to.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (March 20)
Animal Crossing for Switch is happening! The latest entry in the adorable social simulation series drops players on a remote island that they can customize to their liking. Nintendo added a crafting mechanic to New Horizons, as well as expanded character customization options.
Doom Eternal (March 20)
The sequel to Bethesda and id Software’s demon-slaying reboot appears to be just as heavy metal bonkers as the rest of the series. In addition to upgraded weapons and features, a new Invasion Mode will allow players to take over demons in someone else’s game. However, developer id Software has indicated that Invasion Mode won’t be available at launch, but will be available in a free update “soon after.”
System Shock remake (Q1 2020)
The crowdfunded reboot of the 1994 classic was delayed after developer Nightdive Studios needed time to “reassess [its] path,” so it’s now looking at an early 2020 release. We don’t yet have an exact date, but we’ll be eagerly awaiting an announcement.
Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC, Mac
Cyberpunk 2077 (April 16)
April is technically spring, but we couldn’t leave out one of the most anticipated games of 2020: Cyberpunk 2077. Based on the pen-and-paper roleplaying game Cyberpunk, the long-awaited game from CD Project Red follows a customizable main character named V. Joining V on his adventures is one of the tabletop RPG’s iconic characters, Johnny Silverhand, played by none other than Keanu Reeves.